Discworld for the Best Novel Hugo?

Charlie Stross has an interesting idea:

To clarify, novel series are currently eligible for the Best Hugo Award, as seen by the inclusion of The Wheel of Time last year, though it’s of course arguable whether or not the Discworld series could be seen as a single story under its rules. If not, one could also argue that with the last Tiffany Aching novel having been released, that particular sub-series should be nominated instead.

Should this be done? That’s a harder question to argue. Terry Pratchett himself declined at least one Hugo nomination some years ago and while a nice gesture, he himself is of course not around anymore to see it. Quality wise the Discworld series in parts is as good as anything that ever won a Hugo, while even its worst parts are nowhere near as bad as the worst novels to have won the Hugo. But still, should the Best Novel Hugo go to a sentimental gesture? Or would it be better to just nominate the last Discworld novel ever on its own merits?

I don’t think I would include the series on my ballot, as a) I don’t like the idea of having proper novels compete with series anyway and b) I’d rather see a living author get the recognition. Pterry really doesn’t need a Hugo, even if it is a nice gesture. However, I reserve the right to change my mind if I can’t find five worthy novels to nominate this year.

Faust Eric — Terry Pratchett

Cover of Eric

Faust Eric
Terry Pratchett
155 pages
published in 1990

Eric is a bit of an odd duck in the Discworld, out of place amongst the increasing sophistication of the last couple of novels coming before it, almost a throwback to the very first few books. It’s a lot shorter, a lot less serious and a lot more written for comedic effect than its immediate predecessors were. All of which can be explained by the simple fact that it was first published as an illustrated book, written around a series of Josh Kirby illustrations, which was later adapted into standard Discworld paperback format, losing most of its charm in the process.

A word about Josh Kirby is needed at this place. Kirby was of course the cover artist for all the Discworld novels up until his death, Thief of Time being his last novel. His work was incredibly caricatural in nature, with very exaggerated figures and bright colours, not really to everybody’s tastes. Some might have found it a bit childish even, but I always liked it. To me his covers were Discworld, especially the early novels when it wasn’t all taken that seriously yet even by Pratchett himself. Therefore it made perfect sense to do an illustrated Discworld story with his drawings, just like his replacement as cover artist, Paul Kidby, would do with The Last Hero.

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Oh no Terry Pratchett, No!

News to make the blood of any Discworld fan curdle:

What happened next is that Pratchett collapsed. “I had to kneel on the back seat of the taxi and give him CPR,” Rob says. “It was fingers down throat stuff. He nearly died.”

According to the interview extracts in the New Statesman, if the unthinkable does happen, which looks more and more likely, his daughter will take over the series:

The author tells me that he will be happy for her to continue writing the Discworld books when he is no longer able to do so. “The Discworld is safe in my daughter’s hands,” Pratchett assures me.

For any science fiction or fantasy reader this may not be a comfort, knowing what somebody like Brian Herbert made of his father’s legacy, but I do trust Terry Pratchett enough to give Rhianna Pratchett a chance. I just hope it will be some time yet before she gets it…

Pyramids — Terry Pratchett

Cover of Pyramids

Terry Pratchett
380 pages
published in 1989

A reader asks:

I’ve uh, never read any Pratchett before and have been wanting to tackle the Discworld novels for sometime but I’ve been intimidated by the reading order issue. It actually doesn’t help matters any that this is one of the most frequently asked questions, it all seems so confusing. Where to begin?

A good question. With a series that has almost forty novels, quite a few spinoff books and theatre, movie and television adaptations, the Discworld can look daunting to get into. Yet it’s not as bad as it looks. There are a couple of natural starting points: The Colour of Magic of course, but that’s not very representative for the rest of the series. A better starting point might be Guards! Guards! as that is the novel in which the whole Sam Vines/Night Watch/Ankh Morpork sub series was set up that has dominated the Discworld ever since. But of course since we’re discussing this question in a review of Pyramids, I’m going to make a case for it as the best starting point for getting into the Discworld.

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Wyrd Sisters — Terry Pratchett

Cover of Wyrd Sisters

Wyrd Sisters
Terry Pratchett
331 pages
published in 1988

The wind howled. Lightning stabbed at the earth erratically, like an inefficient assassin. Thunder rolled back and forth across the dark, rain-lashed hills.

The night was as black as the inside of a cat. It was the kind of night, you could believe, on which gods moved men as though they were pawns on the chessboard of fate. In the middle of this elemental storm a fire gleamed among the dripping furze bushes like the madness in a weasel’s eye. It illuminated three hunched figures. As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: ‘When shall we three meet again?
There was a pause.
Finally another voice said, in for more ordinary tones: ‘Well, I can do next Tuesday’.

The opening paragraphs of Wyrd Sisters are a good indication of the rest of the book. This is MacBeth: Discworld style and the witches do not intend to stick to the script. That’s because Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are sensible witches and while the third member of the coven is a bit wet — as in, she actually believes in such things like covens — Magrat Garlick still has a steel core of good Lancrian common sense. They know better than to meddle in affairs (well, mostly) or dance with demons, never mind doing it skyclad. Yet when the king is murdered, his baby heir disappears and the usurper duke turns out not be just a bit evil, but actually uncaring about the land, they’re dragged into meddling against their own will.

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